How to Support Survivors of Abuse During the Holidays


Whether you have a loved one who is an adult or child survivor, whether that person has faced physical violence, psychological abuse, or sexual abuse, and whether that person is still experiencing abuse or is in the process of recovery, it is important that you support the individual as best as you can.

It is especially important that you provide support during the holiday season, as many survivors of abuse find the period from Thanksgiving to the new year one of the most difficult times of the year to cope. 

Listen to the Survivor

You may feel as though you want to give advice to the person who is a survivor of abuse, but you should refrain from doing that and instead ensure you simply listen to the needs of the survivor.

Sure, if you get into a conversation about the abuse, it can be helpful to mention how there are professional services that can help.

You might even want to tell the survivor how he or she can get assistance from an attorney and point him or her in the direction of a trusted local lawyer who has experience in handling things like sexual abuse cases.

For example, if he or she lives in Pennsylvania, you could put the survivor in touch with a trustworthy Philadelphia sexual abuse lawyer.

But do not force what you see as help onto the survivor. It is much more important to simply be there for the survivor and listen to what he or she has to say.

The holiday period is likely to bring up all kinds of unexpected emotions in the survivor, so be respectful of what the person needs and ask how you can best support him or her.

And remember: each survivor is unique and will be facing unique challenges.

Create a Safe Space

The holiday season is a time when families and friends get together. But it can be challenging for some survivors to attend parties and go to different houses as things like certain sounds, smells, and other sensory experiences can trigger painful emotions and memories.

When a survivor is in an unfamiliar setting, it is important that you create a safe space for the person. The best way of doing that is to ask the survivor what you can do to make a space safe and comfortable, and then take the appropriate steps.

It could also be a good idea to come up with a safe word that the survivor can use during a get-together to let you know that he or she requires additional support.

Keep a Watchful Eye on the Survivor and Be Ready to Step In

During holiday parties and get-togethers, make sure you keep a watchful eye on the survivor.

By knowing how to gauge when the person is feeling overly emotional, uncomfortable, or distressed, such as monitoring the person’s body language and facial expressions, you can step in and do things like changing the conversation to a more lighthearted and non-triggering topic, take the person away from the crowd to give him or her space, go for a walk with the survivor, and listen to the survivor’s concerns and problems.

At the end of the day, simply make sure you are there for your loved one when he or she needs your support.

Educate Yourself More About Abuse and How to Help Survivors

To ensure you support a survivor of abuse in the best possible ways during the holidays and beyond, you should learn more about the right ways to assist people who have experienced abuse from professional organizations and charities that provide education in such matters.

After all, we can only cover so much in this article.

By increasing your knowledge of abuse and trauma, you can create more opportunities to support the survivor.